Should I get professional help when completing the Canadian immigration process or applying for a visa?
If you’d like to start the permanent residence process—or if you’re considering applying for a study permit, a work visa or a working holiday permit to Canada—you may be wondering if you should hire an immigration lawyer to guide you through what looks like a bureaucratic maze.
In short, it depends. This article, written with insights from Nadia Barrou, an immigration lawyer in Canada, will help you make the right decision. And if you do seek legal help, Nadia Barrou is offering all pvtistes.net members special rates—more info below!
Do I have to hire an immigration lawyer? Is it a legal requirement in Canada?
You do not have to hire an immigration lawyer. It is not a requirement and most immigrants or temporary workers handle the process alone.
When to go through the application process alone
Save money and head to the forum to get free help from the hivemind if:
- You’re applying for a Working Holiday permit to Canada: as long as basic requirements are met, you just have to submit your profile to a pool and keep your fingers crossed. A certain number of spots are made available every year and candidates who are randomly drawn from the pool receive an Invitation to apply (i.e. more paperwork to fill out and voilà). Note that exceptionally, Working Holiday candidates will have to provide proof of a valid job offer to receive an invitation to apply for the 2021 season. For more info, check out our Step-By-Step Guide to International Experience Canada Work Permits — International Co-op, Young Professionals and Working Holiday Applications. Frankly, this is all the info you’ll need. No immigration lawyer can guarantee you a spot for a Working Holiday permit, it’s pure luck.
- You’re applying for a study permit, a work visa or permanent residence status and meet all basic requirements.
When to seek legal help from an immigration law expert
On the other hand, you may want to hire an immigration lawyer if:
- Your situation is somewhat complicated, for instance if your work visa expired, if you were denied a work visa or permanent residence status, if you’re already in Canada and running out of visa options to stay, etc.
- You’re hopeless with paperwork and see value in delegating the chore to an expert.
What do successful applicants usually decide?
Most applicants don’t hire an immigration lawyer and they manage just fine.
Stay away from legal “professionals” who claim that they can fast track your application, secure a Working Holiday permit spot or increase visa approval chances in general.
Is my visa or permit guaranteed if I hire an immigration lawyer?
First, no immigration lawyer can “make” you eligible—if you don’t meet the basic requirements, there’s nothing they can do. For instance, if you’re 37 and want to apply for a Working Holiday permit, well, tough luck, the age limit is 30 or 35 depending on the country.
Second, immigration law and policies are subject to change. Sometimes, no one sees it coming. For instance, in 2019, the Quebec government passed a contentious immigration bill allowing cancellation of roughly 18,000 immigration applications, a move that took everyone by surprise.
Third, “official instructions and directives aren’t always crystal clear and elements can be interpreted differently in various contexts. Some situations are left to the discretion of processing immigration officers who have the final say. Immigration lawyers can’t offer a 100% approval guarantee. We have an obligation of means, not results,” explains Nadia Barrou, immigration lawyer.
“Why on earth do people hire an immigration lawyer then?” you’re probably wondering. After all, what’s the point if it’s not a legal requirement, if most applicants succeed on their own and if no guarantee is offered?
Well, expert advice can be extremely valuable. Read on…
Save time and energy with an initial consultation
Experienced travellers map out the trip before packing. Applying for permanent residence or a work visa is definitely a long and bumpy trip, so you need to know how to get from point A to point B as fast, as easily and as cost effectively as possible.
This is how Nadia Barrou puts it: “Let’s say your spouse and yourself want to open a restaurant in Ontario. You’re basically starting a business, so immigrant entrepreneur sounds like the best immigration category. You spend months creating a business plan that meets the conditions and financial requirements. And then you meet with an immigration lawyer who explains that it would be easier and cheaper for one of you to apply for a student permit to enroll in a Culinary Arts and Food Science program. Processing times are 3-4 months and you’d get an open work permit, so you’d be able to start your food business and hire your spouse. Ta da! You’ve just saved time, money and stress.”
An initial consultation with an immigration lawyer can be a really good way to understand your options and choose a strategy. At the end of the one-on-one talk, you’ll understand all the choices available to you and it will be a good time to decide whether you need to hire your friendly expert for the journey.
Say again, why are immigration lawyers valuable during the application process?
At the end of the initial consultation, you will understand all your available options and you will be able to make a decision on the best immigration or application process for you. Now, will you have the time to read the documentation, review the process, fill out forms, anticipate potential roadblocks and analyze potentially problematic fine print?
According to Nadia Barrou, “most applicants handle everything just fine after their initial consultation.” Besides, there’s always Google—immigration info, application forms and up-to-date processing times are available online. The Government of Canada also offers information and advice.
“However, free online advice isn’t always accurate, up-to-date or applicable to your own situation,” adds Nadia Barrou. “Info can be hard to decipher, misleading or plain confusing. Unlike social media buddies, immigration lawyers are qualified professionals who are trained to help you navigate the system. The more experienced they are, the better their analysis will be—they can even anticipate potential changes and outcomes.”
“We also have several clients who just don’t have enough spare time to handle the process alone. They have deadlines and can’t afford any mistake that would delay the process. They just want reach their goal, that’s it. Other clients are facing issues because their situation is complicated—expired work permit, application returned, previous application denied, ongoing divorce procedure, etc.”
“You and you alone can decide whether working with an immigration lawyer makes sense. And as a professional, I’m only looking to help out clients who feel I’m adding value to their project,” reminds Nadia Barrou.
How do I choose an immigration expert?
If you do choose to hire help for your project, ensure you’re working with the right person:
- An authorized immigration consultant OR
- A Lawyer member of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society
Don’t hire John Doe who reads online advice and claims he is an expert!
The Government of Canada offers helpful advice to find out if your representative is authorized.
Pvtistes.net also recommends the following:
- If you’re just Googling “immigration lawyer” or “immigration consultant,” be suspicious with top-of-page results. There is no shortage of scammers and scams being uncovered daily.
- Do not send money until you’re sure you’re dealing with an authorized lawyer or consultant.
- If you suddenly realize you’re dealing with a scammer or a non-authorized “expert,” cease contact and report the individual or the organization to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Some scammers will threaten you, don’t believe a word they say—they can’t sabotage your immigration project or report you (ah ah, as if!).
- Read the Top 20 Tips on How to Prevent Immigration Fraud from the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).
Introducing Nadia Barrou
Nadia Barrou has been helping future permanent residents in Canada for more than 25 years.
Here are her regular fees and special discounts for pvtistes.net users:
- If you’re currently in Canada: an initial consultation is $275 (tax included) with a follow-up within two weeks. Enjoy a $20 discount using the form below, lowering the fee to $255 (about €168).
- If you’re currently outside Canada: an initial consultation is $385 (no applicable tax) with a follow-up within 30 days. Enjoy a $20 discount using the form below, lowering the fee to $365 (about €240).
- If you do choose to hire Nadia Barrou as your immigration expert for the rest of the journey, enjoy a 5% discount on her fees using the form below.
Note that these offers don’t apply if you’re already working with Nadia Barrou.